Are you thinking about hosting a virtual conference? Say no more.
This guide is your one-stop shop for understanding the steps involved with
planning, promoting, and running the best virtual event experience imaginable.
(15 min read)
A virtual conference is an online business-driving event that brings people with similar interests, and industry leaders together to share information, ideas, and new innovations. It involves presentations, discussions, and networking opportunities, allowing participants to learn, network, and stay up-to-date with advancements in their fields.
By definition, a virtual conference works the same way very much as an in-person conference. Generally speaking, a business will invite speakers to present their viewpoints or learnings on a particular topic or industry. These presenters are carefully selected by the business to pique the interest of their target audience and drive as many registrations as possible.
Businesses will use virtual conferences as an opportunity to achieve specific business goals and KPIs, which might look like the following:
This means looking at how you approach and maximize three key parts of any event:
Once you have those three parts worked out, you need a virtual conference strategy to pull them off.
Enter: Your event-first growth strategy.
This type of strategy helps you discover, engage, and grow customers through a connected series of events across the entire customer journey. As a result, you can generate better engagement, develop customer affinity, and nurture prospects further down your sales pipeline.
This leads us to a frequently asked question…are virtual conferences effective?
In short: they absolutely are! But it’s also like asking, “is marketing effective?” It’s effective, but there are many ways to tackle marketing, just as there are many ways to tackle a virtual conference.
Understanding the advantages of virtual conferences will help paint a clearer picture of why so many businesses prefer planning virtual conferences.
Debating virtual conferences vs. in-person events? Here are some of the main advantages of virtual conferences and why they have become so popular.
Are you looking for ways to reach global audiences? Then virtual conferences can be really effective. Imagine no complex logistics, travel arrangements, or limits on venue capacity.
Virtual conferences are more efficient at solving business problems than their physical counterparts. The investment per attendee is usually lower.
Conferences bring passionate people together and closer to your brand. They make a great starting point for building passionate communities around your brand and your industry. When you keep up the engagement momentum after your annual conference with a year-long calendar of smaller, more frequent events, you turn your audience into a community.
But does this mean you should completely avoid in-person events? Not always. Sometimes it’s wise to consider a combination of virtual and in-person for your business conference (we call these hybrid events). Other times, you might like to make the complete pivot from in-person events to a virtually-exclusive conference.
In summary: It’s about protecting the event experience you want to deliver. On that note, here’s how to host and plan a virtual conference.
Measure the number of successful deals closed as a result of the virtual conference, indicating its effectiveness as a sales and lead generation platform.
Track the number of new potential business opportunities generated through the conference, highlighting its ability to attract and engage prospective customers.
Pipeline Acceleration: Evaluate the speed and efficiency at which leads progress through the sales pipeline, indicating the conference’s impact on accelerating the sales cycle.
Monitor the increase in product adoption rates among conference attendees, demonstrating the event’s influence on driving customer interest and usage of the product or service.
Assess the number of conference participants who become brand advocates, measuring their willingness to promote and recommend the company’s offerings to others.
Measure the extent to which the virtual conference increases brand visibility and recognition among its target audience, as reflected by improved brand recall and familiarity.
Evaluate the level of engagement and participation within the conference community, ensuring strong connections are fostered and attendees are motivated to remain involved even after the event concludes.
As the old adage goes: fail to plan, plan to fail. Effective virtual conference planning requires a combination of a clear vision, a solid strategy, and the right mix of virtual conference technology to execute and bring this vision to life.
Before you plan the agenda of your virtual conference, make sure you know your event goals and objectives. Set SMART goals, and ensure the whole team understands what you want to achieve. Also, think about the audience you want to attract to this event.
Are your attendees looking forward to networking, thought leadership content, or entertainment? If the primary motive is to network and build connections, then it will make sense for you to tune your conference’s plan to facilitate it.
Your theme will determine the entire content of your conference, the kind of sessions you will host, the speakers you will invite, and your audience for the event.
It makes sense to fine-tune your conference’s theme according to your business goals and attendee expectations.
Today, you need to orchestrate a content experience that supports and enhances a customer’s journey at each step. You achieve success when different moving parts and content assets join together to offer the right information at the right time and in the right manner.
The right line-up of speakers can add credibility to your event, rope in more registrations, enhance your event’s content and keep your attendees engaged throughout.
Holidays, festivals, and events hosted by your competitors can affect attendee turn-out. As a general rule, don’t host events near major holidays and festivals like Christmas, and Thanksgiving as people are busy with their families.
Start promoting your conference well in advance. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have all the nitty gritty details. As long as you have the event time, speakers, moderators, and the general gist of the event worked out— you’ve got something to promote!
On top of your promotion, go the extra mile and send some swag to your attendees. Why? Because it gets them excited to attend your event and helps you get their mindshare. It motivates them to return the gesture or thank you by attending your event—Shannon Wright, The Forem’s Director of Community
This needs to include a to-the-minute rundown of your event’s progression covering speaker presentations, performance times, audience breaks, etc.
Technical glitches happen, but you should still do as much as possible to avoid them from happening. Conduct multiple dry runs, and build a Plan B for unforeseen interruptions.
Allow your speakers, and host to test the technical set-up and get accustomed with the virtual conference platform.
Think about maintaining the momentum post-event. What can you send to them that may help assist—a summary email recapping the main points, an exclusive deal, a feedback questionnaire, or simply a warm thank you?
Let’s assume your virtual conference was a raging success. It’s still important to consider what you can do to improve aspects of your event next time. How can you make planning more efficient? Could you have facilitated networking better? Did the results help you achieve your business objectives?
Attendee empathy is the key to building and tuning the content experience of your virtual conference to your attendees’ liking. You should know what provides value to them, what makes them thrilled, and what makes them feel accepted.
Other than that, you should think about curating a delightful content experience at every touchpoint.
At a top level, these content touchpoints could be:
As you can see, there’s a mix of tangible and intangible content touchpoints. It’s your job to tie all of these together into content that considers and boosts attendee engagement.
Now, that you know all the content touchpoints, let’s dive deep into planning a content experience for the day of your virtual conference.
Emotions drive attendee satisfaction. Thus, your event’s content experience should make your attendees feel these emotions:
Now, let’s talk about curating event content and virtual conference script that can evoke these emotions, and spur deeper audience participation and engagement.
Consider how you’re going to create networking opportunities, encourage audience sharing, introduce different content formats, and how you’ll give your attendees a break from information overload.
Lucky for you, we’ve got some ideas to get you started:
Once you’ve brainstormed your ideas, it’s time to execute them!
Enriching your virtual conferences with delightful and meaningful networking opportunities requires thoughtful planning and execution.
Here are a few ways to take networking at your virtual events and conferences to the next level.
Prior to the event, encourage attendees to create profiles on the conference platform. Use virtual lounges and other dedicated virtual spaces like breakout rooms, and open up a chat to allow attendees to introduce themselves and meet new people. This helps attendees find like-minded individuals and initiate conversations early.
Create dedicated virtual spaces for networking
Some platforms like Airmeet can let you create dedicated virtual spaces like virtual lounges, Fluid Space, and breakout rooms that allow you to replicate a life-like networking experience at your virtual conference. Encourage participants to join these lounges during breaks or dedicated networking sessions.
Implement a system that pairs attendees with similar interests or complementary backgrounds. You can use AI-powered matchmaking algorithms or manually assign networking buddies. Share these introductions with participants before the conference, allowing them to schedule meetings or join virtual rooms together.
Incorporate interactive elements into presentations and panel discussions. For example, include live polls, Q&A sessions, or breakout rooms where attendees can collaborate on specific topics. By encouraging active participation, you create opportunities for attendees to engage with each other, ask questions, and exchange ideas.
Virtual exhibitor booths
Offer virtual exhibitor spaces where attendees can explore different companies, products, or services. Provide chat features or video call options within these booths so participants can interact with exhibitors directly. Encourage exhibitors to share resources, conduct demos, or host live presentations to engage attendees.
Dedicate specific time slots for networking activities during the conference agenda. These could include virtual coffee breaks, happy hours, or networking games. Consider hosting structured activities like speed networking sessions or roundtable discussions, where participants can connect with others in a short amount of time.
Social media engagement
Encourage attendees to utilize conference-specific hashtags on social media platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook. You can also create a social wall with Airmeet to ramp up the engagement
Choose a virtual event platform that allows attendees to create profiles to find and connect with like-minded individuals.
Post-conference community sessions
Empower attendees to reconnect with their meaningful matches after the conferences and continue the networking momentum and foster deeper relationships.
Giving yourself the best chance of flawless event execution comes down to a combination of factors. So, let’s discuss.
Virtual conference platforms have unique capabilities to facilitate networking and attendee engagement in an online environment—even some that you never thought was possible other than in a physical event. But not all virtual conference platforms are created equal. Nor is the virtual conference technology that comes with them!
There’s nothing worse than watching all of your months of hard work come undone with a single technical glitch. Even worse, if you find out that the allocated times don’t work out and you’re left having to cut a presentation on the day.
That’s why having a rehearsal before the main event is important. It’s a chance to bring everyone together to ask questions and provide critical feedback to help you deliver a flawless event. Be sure to schedule tests of each set-up with speakers, moderators, entertainment, and interactive sessions.
In addition to the preparation leading up to the event, you also need to assign responsibilities for different aspects of your event on the day. Be sure to assign specific responsibilities and roles to key people within your event management team for the live event to keep things running smoothly. That way, if a problem comes up on the day, there is immediate accountability to get things back on track quickly.
Just because you have the date of your event etched in your mind doesn’t necessarily mean your attendees do. After you’ve crafted the perfect line of communication, automate this process as much as possible to take one less thing off your plate. Email communication can be easily scheduled in advance or edited on the fly if something changes. The goal here is to keep actively communicating with attendees before the event to keep engagement and attendance levels high.
Kind of like a plan C, D, or E—this is when you need to think about all the worst-case scenarios that could happen. Then, you plan out what your course of action will be to keep things running as smoothly as possible. One example is ensuring you have a backup internet connection if the WIFI completely drops. Or a backup activity if a speaker unexpectedly drops out.
Nothing says ‘thank-you’ or ‘missed you at the conference’ better than a surprise package arriving in the mail. Consider this your final ‘surprise and delight’ gesture to keep your business front-of-mind for the attendees. It’s truly the cherry on top of a well-executed virtual conference.
While it’s all well and good to know how to run a brilliant virtual conference, what’s the point if you don’t have maximum attendees there to enjoy all your hard work and planning? Let’s dive into some tips to get maximum registrations at your future virtual events.
Promoting a virtual conference is a no-brainer. Without some form of marketing, you will be hard-pressed to hit your registration numbers and, subsequently, build attendee engagement and buzz around your virtual conference.
But, is there a best practice way when it comes to virtual conference promotion? Follow these tips.
So you know the kind of experience you want to create, but how do you bring your vision to life? An important part of your virtual conference planning journey is having the right technology to support you. That’s where a virtual conference platform steps in.
Just like an in-person event, virtual conferences can also offer multiple avenues for sponsors to engage with the audience. It may typically include different sponsorship packages with various benefits and price points. For example, keynote speaker slots, branded sessions, logo placement, digital advertisements, virtual booths, and more. Organizers tailor these opportunities to attract sponsors and provide them with visibility and engagement with the conference audience.
In return, sponsors can offer cash, or in-kind benefits to the organizers and enable them to deliver a better experience to their virtual attendees.
Different virtual conference platforms suit particular use cases, while others are all-rounders. So, how do you choose the right one for you?
Here are some key questions to think about:
Now that you have the questions prepared, it’s time to speak to the vendors who have the best virtual conference technology.
In the list below, we have picked the best virtual event platforms that are rich in features and capabilities to run an amazing virtual conference.
You can get all-in-one virtual event platforms that come with a number of integrations to work with the tools you are already using in your business.
For example, improve your event registrations by integrating Zapier, export registration data to Mailchimp, or gain a holistic view of your attendees by integrating with your Salesforce dashboard. Or choose browser-based, no-download virtual events and webinar software solutions to broadcast your event on multiple platforms without any additional hassle.
To narrow down your choices, here are some of the best virtual conference platforms out there:
But which one is the absolute best? Here’s why Airmeet should be at the top of your list if you’re looking for the best virtual conference platform.
To put it bluntly: Airmeet is undisputed when it comes to virtual conference technology. Airmeet has the world’s first Event Experience Cloud that gives full control over the way people want to organize their events. An all-in-one event experience solution that comes with four products AirStudio, AX360, AirControl, and AirIntel.
What should all these fancy names mean to you? Let’s dive into them individually.
Imagine a life-like reception greeting your virtual attendees and leaving an unforgettable first impression. Or a cinematic stage that boasts Hollywood production quality without the heavy price tag. What about an immersive video that captures your audience with announcements or a personal welcome message? AirStudio is packed with features to help you easily create these highly personalized event experiences. Fully brand and customize multiple avenues like reception, virtual booths, stages, and lounges at the event.
Picture a virtual networking lounge for conversation and networking that feels like you’re in person. Or the opportunity to allow attendees to join speakers on the virtual stage. Or being able to easily start a conversation through an engaging Q&A, chat, or polls. AX360 gives you networking features that go beyond just any other platform. It’s all about making sure your attendees are fully immersed in what your event has to offer.
AirControl allows you to achieve event planning perfection where you can onboard your entire team on its intuitive UI and start integrating with your existing tech stack.
It’s often an afterthought, but event performance needs to be measured. Surely you want to be able to understand whether your event was a success? But to be able to understand this picture entirely, you need easy access to the right data to measure the conference’s performance and ROI. AirIntel allows you to tap into multiple data points across your entire event experience—ultimately removing the guesswork when it comes to understanding your event’s ROI.
If it wasn’t made clear enough, virtual conferences allow your business to remove borders and build meaningful connections with thousands of attendees at scale, all while accelerating your sales pipeline.
The first step is understanding the type of experience you want to provide and building your virtual event strategy around that.
If there is one thing you should take away from all of this: you should have the best virtual conference platform to help you execute your strategy and deliver an unforgettable experience.
What is a virtual conference?
A virtual conference is a virtual event that brings together like-minded people in an online environment. The entire virtual event experience is centered around providing a rich attendee networking experience that provides the same value (if not more) as in person events.
How to run a virtual conference?
Develop a detailed agenda and assign roles and responsibilities to key people within your event management team and your event hosts. Then, choose a virtual conference platform to help you run a virtual event easily, and deliver the virtual event experience you envision.
How to make virtual conferences engaging?
To make virtual conferences more engaging, consider incorporating interactive elements like live polls, Q&A sessions, and breakout rooms for networking. Utilize multimedia such as videos and visuals, and encourage audience participation through chat features.
Leverage gamification techniques and offer incentives to boost engagement and create memorable experiences for attendees.
How to organize a virtual conference?
In this order: Define the purpose and goals of the conference, choose a date and time that will work for the majority of your potential attendees, find a suitable virtual events platform for hosting your conference, promote your conference using all the channels at your disposal, and plan for technical difficulties by conducting a dry run of the event before d-day.
How to plan a virtual conference?
Define the goals of the conference, choose a date and time that will work for the majority of your potential attendees, find a suitable virtual events platform for hosting your conference, promote your conferences using all the channels at your disposal, and plan for technical difficulties.
How to attend a virtual conference?
To attend a virtual conference, follow these steps: 1. Register online. 2. Log in to the conference website. 3. Review the agenda for session details. 4. Ensure internet access and a computer. 5. Download necessary software (if required). 6. Join sessions and actively participate.
But don’t take it from us! See for yourself
Make your webinars 10X better with just 10 simple questions
Make your webinars 10X better with just 10 simple questions
Incredible Companies Use Airmeet
Most loved Virtual Events Platform
Incredible Companies Use Airmeet
Most loved Virtual Events Platform
Events can open the door to more connection, and more growth. Discover why Airmeet
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